Patriarch of Jerusalem discusses conflict and Christianity in Palestine
Devon Chenelle | Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Despite the desire for peace in Palestine, neither peace nor security has been won by the myriad of negotiations and wars of the past 70 years, Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said.
Twal delivered a lecture titled “Middle East Christians’ Future: In Whose Hands” on Tuesday at Hesburgh Center Auditorium as part of the 2015-2016 Notre Dame Forum “Faith, Freedom and the Modern World: 50 Years After Vatican II.” The talk was hosted by the Center For Civil and Human Rights, and Twal was introduced by University President Fr. John Jenkins.
Twal ministers in a part of the world where Christians feel oppressed and was trained as a Christian diplomat, Jenkins said. Twal brings a message of peace, reconciliation and charity.
Twal first addressed the parlous state of the Christian minority in the Middle-East, with special attention to the situation in Palestine.
The Christian population of Palestine is a small minority, Twal said, and thus it cannot function effectively in isolation. The Catholics in Palestine alone operate over 115 schools, some of which have a majority Muslim student body.
“We cannot have a ghetto just for us Christians. … Our mission cannot know borders,” Twal said.
He said there are many perils for the Christian community of the Levant, such as the Israeli bureaucracy’s mistreatment of Christian and many Muslims’ apathy towards the welfare of the Christian community, calling the Church of Jerusalem a Church of Calvary.
In spite of all the suffering of the Christian community, it is impossible to live, love and work in Jerusalem without Jesus and the vision of the cross, Twal said.
“In Jerusalem, He prayed, He worked and He wept,” Twal said.
Twal said although the Christian community of Jerusalem is often subject to persecution, it is also unmistakably a church of resurrection, empowered by its proximity to where He rose.
“I too am anxious for the future but [also] hope for a bright future,” Twal said, referring to the future prospects of the Christians of Palestine.
Twal’s lecture also spent time on the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict that fatally undermines Israel’s claims of democracy so long as the occupation continues, Twal said.
“The vast majority of Palestinians are fighting for the same things Jews did,” Twal said.
The rights Palestinians seek are the rights of democracies, such as dignity, respect and justice, he said. These were the same values his Patriarchate has upheld and promoted for years. While he expressed pessimism about the viability of a two-state solution, the fundamental problem is still occupation, particularly while Jerusalem is still occupied territory, Twal said.
“Much is spoken [of peace], yet we have none,” Twal said. “ … In Palestine, there is no more credibility in the speech of politicians, and thus, changes requiring great sacrifice must come.”
“In Palestine, one thing is clear: the cycle of degradation and violence must be broken,” he said.
Twal said, the Middle-East is beset by politic without ethic and the dangerous rhetoric of extremists, lack of education, and the reckless profiteering of arms dealers are all contributing to the current disorder in the Middle-East
“In Jerusalem we are closely watching the events in the Arab World…our hearts are filled with sorrow with our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence,” Twal said, “In Jordan we have 1,400,000 Syrians…last year we received 8,000 Iraqi Christian people…for sure Syria needs reform, but 200,000 [were] killed because they want to change this regime, and the regime is still in good health.”
Twail said the Middle East is beset by a dark past and dark present, and he prays for the emergence of a genuine leader. Although he believes an educated population is one key step towards justice and peace, it’s clear the road to peace in the Holy Land is a long and difficult one.
“[Being] fair and balanced … I’m not sure that’s possible when we speak about the Holy Land,” Twal said.